Anna Bordioug is a fourth-year co-op student completing a double degree in computer science and business. She shares her varying work experiences in tech and business.
Co-op #1: Software developer, InSpark Analytics
Co-op #2: Software developer, TunnelBear Inc.
Co-op #3: Associate consulting operations, SAS Institute Inc.
Co-op #4 & 5: Product analyst for digital lending services, Questrade Financial Group
Anna's Co-op Journey
What was it like working at each co-op?
Anna started her co-op career as a software developer at the Toronto-based data analytics startup, InSpark Analytics. At this co-op, Anna was working directly with the CEO to build a SAS to Python code converter from scratch using Python and ANTLR4.
“It definitely gave me a lot more confidence in my development skills and a lot of satisfaction with all I created by the end.”
Anna’s second co-op was at a virtual private network (VPN) company called TunnelBear Inc. As a software developer, she worked with C-Sharp on their Windows desktop product, performing various bug fixes, refactoring code, researching continuous integration and improving the team’s code release process.
Anna’s third co-op was at SAS Institute Canada as a consulting operations associate in a project management role.
“That was my first co-op where I changed from the technical side to the business side to get new experiences. I ended up really liking it. I really liked my team there and I liked the work that I was doing.”
Anna’s fourth and fifth co-ops were at Questrade Financial Group, as a product analyst with the digital lending services team. During her time at Questrade, Anna worked in a product management role with the QuestMortgage team to help build their digital mortgage product. In her second term, she also took on a delegate product owner role on a scrum team, working directly with the developers of QuestMortgage’s point-of-sale system.
“There was a lot of technical language that I had to get a grasp on and it was a learning curve, but it was an interesting one, for sure.”
Anna considered her role at Questrade to be a unique opportunity to build her project management skills while working on innovative digital lending services with an amazing team.
Startups versus large companies
“From my experience, I really, really liked working at both!”
“Startups are very fast-paced. You learn a large variety of things because fewer people are working there. You learn a lot at a very fast pace, which is great.”
“The only con of startups I can think of is not having as many people within the company to network with. But people who work at startups tend to be very interesting people with interesting stories.”
“Even though Questrade is a larger company, my team is very close and they are a big part of the reason I came back. The pros of bigger companies are networking. You can reach out to a bunch of different people in different departments and learn from them. There are usually more company resources and courses you can take too.”
What skills did you learn through co-op?
“Co-op showed me that what I'm learning in school is applicable in the real world and gave me the opportunity to apply those skills.”
“The biggest thing my tech co-ops did for me is increase the confidence I had in my coding abilities. I saw a very visible difference in my coding skills from before my first co-op versus after my first co-op.”
Anna learned through her transitions between work terms that having a technical background is a huge bonus in business.
“It was interesting because I'm learning a totally different skill set from the business side of my degree. Learning the skills that are in a real-world environment was a good experience. I got to learn a bunch of product management frameworks and apply them. It's stuff that you see in your business courses, but you don't realize how applicable and impactful they can be in the real world until you actually work with it in a company.”
“It’s harder to learn soft business skills than technical skills because you can't learn those through a textbook.”
“One of the important soft skills I learned is communication and knowing how to communicate with different types of people.”
“I think co-op really encourages you to learn these soft skills like communication. You spend so much time in meetings and talking to different people to fulfill your job role, especially as a business-oriented co-op.”
“It's more trial and error at your first co-op. Your confidence builds up over time. Eventually, you feel more confident about how you speak in meetings. You will have more confidence that you can say the right thing.”
Anna’s boss and mentor at Questrade encouraged her to work on personalized work term objectives and development plans throughout the term. This includes a tab with her projects and a tab for important skills to develop her personal and professional growth.
“Another thing co-op has taught me is presentation skills. Especially as a business co-op, you must present your work. How do you bring your point across to people in an impactful way?”
Advice for other co-op students
“Don't be afraid to ask questions.”
“I think a lot of co-op students think that their employer expects them to know everything about the topic or about the job that they are being hired for. Employers don't expect that.”
“If you have a question, don't pretend to know the answer to it. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to learn. If you ask, and you're listening when they give you the answer, then you won't have to ask that question again. And you learned something new.”
“Also, set goals for yourself at the start of your work term to give yourself direction. If you don't do that you may miss the opportunity to develop as much as you could have during your co-op.”
“I think that with any role, even as a co-op or intern, you can to some extent customize the role that you play. I think most managers are open to that. So, if you have goals set for yourself you will have a better idea of how you want to customize your role.”
What's next for you...
“Actually, co-op is the reason I know what's next for me.”
“At the beginning of my degree, I did not know what I wanted to do. I knew I loved the technical side and the business side in high school, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it.”
“Doing product management co-ops like at Questrade showed me that I wanted to do product management at a technical company in the future.”
“I will finish school soon and then I will look for these types of jobs after I graduate.”